The case for animated GIFs in Facebook's news feed

Right now Facebook does not do animated GIFs but it could and perhaps it should.

If you are old enough you will easily recall a time when animated GIFS were horribly but quite correctly mocked. They were awful. They choked modems and were never worth the wait.

Technology progressed; access speeds got faster and new generations, people who had never seen the primitive animated solar flares ruin an otherwise good logo, took to the web.

When Google+ launched and people released you could share animated GIFs there was madness. People shared all sorts of rubbish. The insanity lasted for a fortnight or so and then calmed down.  Now, for the most part, animated GIFs shared on Google+ are worthy of your attention. If someone keeps on sharing rubbish; they’re uncircled.

Let’s not forget Tumblr. This is the platform that resurrected animated GIFs in the first place. This is that platform that the Google+ users found their animations during the madness fortnight. Tumblr is fun, friendly and full of the next digital generation.

The thing about animated GIFs is that, when done right, they tell a better story than a static image. The animation can be subtle or dramatic but the motion adds elements of surprise, reveal and reaction.

What about Facebook? Facebook is a rule to itself. It is not the community of artistic digital natives like Tumblr. Nor is it largely populated by people savvy enough to get value from Google+. If animated GIFs come to Facebook then motion madness will last far longer than it did on Google+

Some people will hate it. Some people will threaten to quit Facebook over the horror of animated GIFs. Guess what? Most won’t. Facebook is used to it.

If Facebook is to move towards the content marketing end of the social media spectrum, away from the noisy updates of micro-actions (they’re safe elsewhere in the new system), then surely it needs to accept this powerful and visual means of communication.

Buzzfeed accepts animated GIFs and look at how well Buzzfeed is doing. What Buzzfeed does with animated GIFs is to keep them static at first and provide a play button. Users can play the GIF if they want.
Perhaps this is the route Facebook should take. Allow animated GIFs but keep them gated. This will open up news feed to more possibilities, help brand with their marketing and users with their creativity while keeping any dizzying animation safely behind a play button.

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